Croatia cannot rule out building a border fence in order to manage the flow of migrants, the country’s president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has said.
"I would like to avoid the situation where we have to put any kind of physical barrier on the border, but I have always requested from our government a tight control of the border... I don't know about the fence, I don't exclude it as a possibility in the future,” the president told CNBC in an interview.
“Whatever it is, it will not be an aggressive policy, it will certainly be a policy that will be coordinated with the rest of the EU,” she added.
Croatia has become a transit destination for migrants heading to Western Europe, following Hungary’s decision to close its border with Serbia. Croatia has seen almost 200,000 asylum seekers entering the country since the beginning of the migrant crisis, and expects the number to continue to rise.
“We have been flooded with migrant flows and it has become very difficult to manage the flow of people. Neither Croatia nor Hungary are destination countries for these migrants. We don’t want to isolate ourselves, we don’t want to close down the border, we sympathise very much with these people who are on the road for whatever reason, we need to find a solution on the European level and on the global level,” Grabar-Kitarovic said, adding that the migrant crisis has affected Croatia’s tourism sector, a key part of the economy.
Following Hungary’s decision to close its border with Croatia starting on midnight October 17, Croatia has started rerouting the migrant flow to neighbouring Slovenia.
Slovenia has already stated that it can accept only a limited number of refugees, and rejected Croatia's attempt to send a train with 1,800 people on it on October 18, after 2,100 people entered the country on October 17. Slovenia said it would accept up to 2,500 migrants per day, while Croatia has planned to send at least 5,000 people.
"Despite the otherwise unproblematic arrival of a large number of refugees and migrants, matters grew complicated yesterday when Croatia requested that we accept more refugees than we could handle,” Slovenia’s interior ministry state secretary Bostjan Sefic told journalists on October 19.
"Communication with Croatia has since broken down and they have stopped responding. We find this behaviour completely unacceptable."
Relations are likely to remain fraught while the flow of migrants continues.